Context Clues

Aside from talking about food with people who share the same passion and thirst (hunger?) for knowledge in talking about food, the thing I loved most about being in the Gastronomy Program at Boston University was the snacks.  Because our classes most often were from 6-9pm on weeknights, instructors would incorporate a shared snack situation to be enjoyed during the mid-class break.  A time to stretch, pee, freshen up, socialize (outside of passing notes – not that I did that; I mean, this is grad school… who does that in grad school?), we were also able to indulge in yummies, especially after talking about food for an hour and a half.

On January 31, I presented my thesis as part of the Jacques Pepin Lecture Series at BU.  My thesis is about the foodways of Guam, where I am from.  I talk a lot about the flavor profile of the food preferences of locals, and have a bunch of photos that I took while I was there doing “fieldwork” (yes, it was fieldwork, but I was also there visiting family and generally having a lovely time soaking in the sun and gaining about 15 pounds).  Taking inspiration from the class snack time, I decided to provide topical snacks at the lecture for attendees to enjoy so they had some gustatory context for what they were learning about.

In case you are unfamiliar with the food (or anything) of Guam, basically people there like their food salty, sour, spicy, and meaty.  The most common ingredients used (according to my participants, and my experience living there for the first 17.5 years of my life) are soy sauce, coconut, lemon, vinegar, onion, garlic, black pepper, and donne’ (local hot pepper).

For the snacks, I chose red rice, chicken kelaguen (similar to ceviche, but the chicken is cooked by heat before acid is added), finadene (the preferred condiment), and manha titiyas (coconut tortillas).  I also made roskette (Chamorro cornstarch cookies).   AKA:

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Red rice, kelaguen, and finadene are must-haves on the fiesta table.  Shoot, finadene is generally a must-have in the refrigerator.   I know I always have some!  Roskette is something that personally transports me back home when I eat it.  When I lived on Guam, I would only have it on special occasions, though it was usually readily available at certain grocery stores and mom-and-pop shops.  Once I moved away, it was one of many things I longed for in care packages.

Gimme more…

The last brownie recipe you will ever use

I love chocolate.  You may have already guessed this, since I’ve already posted a chocolatey recipe before.  (Granted, I’ve been a bit slack with updating this blog… my apologies.)  Regardless, I am compelled to share the single best chocolate-related recipe I’ve ever had the pleasure of enjoying.  A little over a year ago, my friend Ashley made my idea of heaven in a dessert for her culinary final —  a towering brownie-peanut butter-pretzel-caramel concoction that should be outlawed.  I was already sold with her description. I mean, how can you mess up something that consists of chocolate, peanut butter, pretzels, and caramel? Even more so, how much better can it get?  Using this brownie recipe, that’s how.

You know how you have some brownies that are kind of like a sad, frosting-less chocolate cake in the shape of a brownie?  Or worse, some dry, crumbly thing that tastes vaguely like chocolate?  They should not be called brownies.  That completely disgraces the glory that is the brownie.  But that all ends with this recipe. Ok, just how good are these damn brownies, you ask?  Well.  Every.single.piece. of this brownie is simultaneously crisp on the outside, and gooey on the inside.  With 11 ounces of chocolate, there is nothing vague about the chocolatey-ness.  After I made them myself, I decided right then and there that I will never ever ever use any other recipe ever again.  And once you make them, you won’t either.

Since the holiday season is upon us, I started getting a bit homesick for my in-law/adopted family in San Diego and the Mexican hot chocolate with pan con mantequilla (bread grilled with butter) and pan dulce (sweet bread).  So, I decided to put some Abuelita chocolate in the recipe, and they turned out better than I thought.  The texture remained the same, and the Abuelita chocolate was subtle yet was noticeable enough to the discerning tongue.  Mexican hot chocolate brownies.  Yes.

So, on with the recipe.

Gimme more…

Chocolate+ginger+brown butter=heaven

I recently “discovered” brown butter and all its glory.  It’s so versatile and can be used in savory and/or sweet dishes.  I can’t decide which I love more, though.  I’ve made brown butter strawberry pasta with a balsamic glaze and grilled herbed chicken; I’ve made chocolate chip cookies with brown butter; I’ve even made scallops in brown butter.  The combination of sweet nuttiness and that distinct butter flavor pairing so nicely with pretty much anything — oh, I absolutely love it.

The other day I told my partner I was going to make dessert for her.  She’s a chocoholic.  I’m a chocoholic.  So of course it was going to be something chocolatey.  For some reason, candied ginger came to mind — something I bought a few months ago with the intention of using with something chocolatey.  So I looked up some recipes in the cookbooks I have (specifically, I found a recipe for chocolate ginger shortbread cookies in my copy of Ming Tsai’s “Simply Ming”), but they all seemed either too involved or included ingredients I didn’t have on hand at home.  So I resorted to the internet and found an amazing recipe for chocolate cookies with candied ginger.  It was in Jamestown, ND’s newspaper, The Jamestown Sun back in September 2010.   Gimme More…